If there is one cringey quote that I’ve heard once too many times, it’s: “You can never truly call yourself a petrolhead, unless you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo.” The thing that bugs me about this Clarkson quote the most is that many people that drive newish Alfas like to use it as justification for their purchase choices around the braai between their mates.
The reality is that if you need to use quotes to defend your Alfa, you haven’t driven the right Alfa in the first place.
And if there is one generation of Alfa Romeo that needs no justification, it’s the 105 series, and more specifically my favourite – the GT Junior. It’s the car I saw my dad racing in since I was born and to this day there are still a brave few that not just drive theirs, but continue to race them amidst increasing scarcity over the years.
One such man is Dave Alhadeff.
Dave used to race bikes in his younger years, but after starting a family he only got back into racing a while later in 2007.
What better car to start racing in than a GT Junior previously owned by Peter Gough?
When I asked him why he chose to start racing with an Alfa and not, say, a Ford, which would be a lot easier to get started in, he simply told me: “I consider myself to have good taste.”
The first GT Junior didn’t last long and Dave soon went on to build his very own widebody Junior. Fed up with sourcing dribs and drabs of engine parts from the UK, he managed to get a highly-regarded European engine builder to put together a 200hp racing engine from scratch.
What was estimated to be a 6-month waiting period later turned into 18, but all would be worth it as the meticulously assembled racing engine eventually arrived. But in true Alfa fashion of playing tricks on your heart, the engine lasted only one run with only the head being salvageable. Such is motorsport – she’s a cruel mistress and best laid plans don’t always work out.
Some Cosworth pistons and Weber 50’s later (despite critics saying 50’s will never work), Dave’s Alfa was on song and still races to this day with minimal refreshes in-between.
“You either have it or you don’t, and Alfa blood runs thick in my veins,” Dave says proudly. “Once you start opening up a classic Alfa and seeing how far ahead they were at the time in terms of engineering, you can only admire and respect that. And on top of that, the engineering manages to be a thing of beauty as well.”
Those who have driven a GT Junior around a track would have picked up how twitchy the back-end can get, but Dave’s widebody turns out to be much more forgiving.
“It’s crazy how much difference 5 inches can make, but it has completely altered the feel of the car and made it much more forgiving. Sliding a standard Junior around a corner would get you into a lot of trouble, but with the widebody, there is a lot more light at the end of the tunnel.”
If there has to be one critique of racing a classic Alfa Romeo, it’s that parts have become very difficult to source. Fundamentals such as windshields can take you forever to source, let alone finding someone who can actually build a decent race engine. These kinds of hurdles have resulted in fewer Juniors on track in the country today.
Even for an Alfaholic such as Dave, this has become a problem. He has since decided to make the most of it and try his hand at racing a BMW 325i Shadowline he recently purchased to race in the 2020 season. As one of only two Alfas in the Millstock Classic Cars roster, it will be a sad day once the little Junior leaves the grid, but it (and its owner) deserves all the respect in the world for racing as long as it did.
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